Opinion | Democracy faces two threats. Trump is only one of them.

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The survival of democracy should be a central issue in American politics in the coming year. To insist on this is to be realistic, not alarmist. But to make that case requires distinguishing two separate concerns.

First, Donald Trump is at the center of our national conversation. The second attack on voting rights rarely commands the airwaves.

Let’s start with the good news: Trump’s status as a mainstream presidential candidate has been unassailable, thanks to his own radical rhetoric, from his promise to use the Justice Department. A weapon of revenge against political enemies. The result, the New York Times called Trump’s trip, “a partial but welcome shift toward the refined journalistic coverage.”More fascist-sounding territoryHe said. The Economist, which does not have the image of left-wing politics, has received wide attention To describe Trump In the year It will cause the biggest disaster in the world by 2024.

It’s true that most Republican politicians have shied away from calling out the former president’s intended attacks on our constitutional democracy, but at least the issue is being mixed outside of the GOP coke.

We are focusing on the long-term decline of voting rights, a core building block of a democratic republic. It’s easy to overlook because making the cut to get to the polls is a subtle, decades-long process. It was launched by the Supreme Court in 2013 Shelby County v. Holder The decision that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act greatly relegates the Justice Department’s power to enforce the law.

This has led to an explosion of government abuses, including exclusionary voter ID laws, targeted purges of voter rolls, gerrymanders that reduce minority representation, and early voting laws that favor some groups over others.

Because such measures stemmed from the mass disenfranchisement of black voters during the Jim Crow era—which ended with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965—defenders of today’s bans insist they do not discriminate against anyone. But it makes it difficult for some people to vote – often in the name of defending what is considered false “Voter Fraud.” This is at the heart of Trump’s denial of the election – nothing less than an attack on democracy.

And the attack continues.

In his decision ShelbyChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that although there is no strong Section 4, the Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination under Section 2, which “applies nationwide and does not apply in this case.”

Constant? If not 2-1 decision last week It was granted a stay by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The Court’s majority asserted its miraculous power by reading what Congress had arrogantly said it would do when it passed the law. “Text and Structure”. An act that bars private parties, including civil rights groups, from bringing cases under Section 2 The Atlantic’s Adam Server mentionedthe ruling that only the Justice Department has this authority ignores “the intent of Congress, Supreme Court precedent and decades of practice.”

This is no small judicial exercise. Rick Hasson, a law professor at UCLA He wrote on the election law blog website “Most claims to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are brought by private plaintiffs, not by the resource-constrained Justice Department,” so the ruling largely eliminates cases aimed at protecting voting rights. Goodbye, Voting Rights Act. Of course there were immediate signs (in A key Louisiana issue(eg) 8th Circuit decisions are used to overturn earlier voting rights measures.

Preventing Trump from subverting liberal democracy is a necessary step, but not sufficient. Renewing the fight for a new suffrage law and improving access Amendment in the law of freedom of choice It is important. But it is time to address one of the major shortcomings of our Constitution: It lacks a clear and affirmative guarantee of every citizen’s right to vote. Enacting a constitutional amendment that would do so would bring our voting wars to a conclusion, Hassan argued.

Why do we allow the state to stand in the way of people exercising their right to vote? Hassan asked in an interview. Director of UCLA Protecting the project of democracyHasan elaborates on his proposed reforms and the issue in a later book. “Real Right to Vote” A carefully crafted reform, he argued, could simultaneously protect voter access and ensure electoral integrity. It links automatic voter registration to national, universal, non-discriminatory voter identification.

Polarization makes amending the constitution impossible at present, partly because Hasan addresses fears on both the left and the right. But whatever chance Hassan’s amendment has, it calls on Americans to answer the most important question facing our democracy: Are we really committed? to be Democracy? We’ll decide at the ballot box next November, but even if we get the first answer right, we’ll have a lot more work to do.

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